Skip to main content

The 5 Best Duos In NBA History

pippen & jordan (1)

It’s an almost impossible task for one man to carry an NBA team. We are seeing more and more players with unique skill-sets flock into the league each year, which is why some superstars are pairing up with one another.
Just look at any successful team and there's usually at least a pair of star players that compliment each other. The sport where such duos are most prominent is professional basketball.

The game and the times have changed, so we ranked them accordingly. Some duos had success in terms of hardware, others in terms of numbers

5. Bob Cousy and Bill Russell

Bob Cousy and Bill Russell (pictured) were the building blocks of a Celtics tradition. Together, Cousy and Russell won six championships in seven years, between 1956 and 1963, through solid fundamentals and team play.

While Cousy retired after the ’63 season (he would later play seven games for the Cincinnati Royals in the ’69-’70 season), Russell went on to claim five more rings before passing the torch over to John Havlicek.

At the center, Russell anchored the Celtics defense, as he mastered the art of both anticipating shot caroms for rebounds and rotating into the paint for weak-side blocks. After controlling the possession, Russell would outlet the ball to the Cooz, who would lead the break.

At the opposite end, Cousy would often reward the hustling big man with a sweet pass at the front of the rim. It’s no coincidence that Russell and Cousy led the NBA in rebounds and assists per game, respectively, through three consecutive seasons.

4. John Stockton and Karl Malone

John Stockton and Karl Malone are two of the greatest individual performers to have never won a championship. On a near-nightly basis, Stockton and Malone would compete against the likes of Magic and Kareem, Tim Duncan and David Robinson, Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal simply to get out of the rugged West.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

As individuals, Stockton dished out a record 15,806 assists, while the Mailman racked up 36,928 career points, a total still good for second-most in NBA history. The phrase “Stockton to Malone” delighted the Jazz faithful between 1985 and 2003, and the two even took home co-MVP awards at the 1993 All-Star Game in Salt Lake City.

In making two back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals, in 1997 and 1998, Stockton and Malone went down to the all-around play and heroics of Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan.

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson

As teammates, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar represented both a devastating inside-out combination and a changing of the guard in Laker Land and atop the NBA. As a 20-year-old rookie, Magic filled in for the injured elder statesman (Kareem was 32 at the time) at center in Game 6 of the 1980 Finals. That evening, Johnson blitzed Dr. J and the Philadelphia 76ers for 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists in claiming Finals MVP honors. The NBA was officially on notice.

In half-court sets, Magic would dump the ball down to Kareem, where the most prolific scorer of all time would go to work. In the post, Kareem would pound the ball for two dribbles before pushing off the floor with his off leg and dropping a skyhook into the bottom of the net. Ultimately, Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar would win five championships together, in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988.

2. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal

In 1996, Laker legend and General Manager Jerry West negotiated a series of trades and draft day deals that landed both Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. Bryant, however, was a wunderkind fresh out of high school who would spend his rookie year providing instant offense off the bench behind Eddie Jones.

Shaq and Kobe made four trips to the Finals, winning three, in 2000, 2001, and 2002, as part of a threepeat. By 2004, however, the Lakers had degenerated into dysfunction, with Bryant and O’Neal wrestling for control over the team. While the Lakers did return to the Finals that year, they were blown out in five games by a cohesive Detroit Pistons group that many saw as the antithesis to the star-studded Lakers lineup.

1. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

In terms of basketball pedigree, you couldn’t find two more polar opposites than the wings for the Chicago Bulls’ enduring dynasty: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. The strength of the Jordan-Pippen partnership was largely forged in playoff runs against the Bad Boy Pistons group that turned back the Bulls in 1988, 1989, and 1990.

In 1991, however, the Bulls were back, and a more determined squad swept the Pistons, 4-0, in the Eastern Conference Finals. From there, Jordan and Pippen went on to bring home six championships. Perhaps no more lasting image of the pair exists than Pippen carrying His Airness, the flu-ridden Finals MVP, off the floor in Utah.

Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso

“The NBA told me I couldn’t” — Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso wasn't allowed to switch jersey number

Caruso wanted to honor Bill Russell, but the NBA had a surprising reason not to allow the switch.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and assistant coach Phil Handy

“This man doesn’t work hard all the time” - Lebron James’ work ethic was once questioned by an assistant coach

Phil Handy initially thought LeBron James didn't give his full effort all the time until he witnessed Zero Dark Thirty 23 in the playoffs.

Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka talks with forward Jayson Tatum

"S**t, on Twitter, like everybody else." — Jayson Tatum on how he found out about Ime Udoka's suspension

Tatum, who mentioned that he developed a close bond with Udoka, also revealed that he hasn't spoken to his head coach since the suspension was reported.

USA guard Kobe Bryant, Spain forward Pau Gasol

Kobe Bryant ran through Pau Gasol’s chest just to send a message

Kobe Bryant wanted to set the tone from the first play, and it didn't matter if he had to pin down a close friend.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton, guard Jrue Holiday, and forward Giannis Antetokounmpo

Three Milwaukee Bucks players on ESPN Top-100 list

Despite popular opinion, Jrue Holiday was ranked higher than Khris Middleton.